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July 30, 2004

Beyond the Religious Horizon ...

Found a lengthy dissertation on Christianity and its contribution to the development of Western Society on Russell Newquist's blog which got me thinking - always a dangerous condition!

While I agree with much of what Russell has said, I would depart from his assertion that Christianity is now unable to take us any further forward. Just as the Israelites found themselves having to make a huge leap forward - one which took a number of generations to actually sink in - if it ever did fully - so Christianity stands at one of what Russell calls an "Horizon". This is where I think he is missing the boat. Christianity does indeed stand at an Horizon, and it is an important one, but, before it can move forward, there is some baggage to be shed by the majority of its adherents, and this is where the difficulty lies. It is also not necessarily with the people who, Sunday by Sunday, keep up the attendances; it lies now with those outside who claim that meeting together in worship is irrelevant.

One purpose of meeting together in a congregation is to help each other explore faith, to study the scriptures, and explore what science is telling us - how it fills in the gaps in the scriptural account. The great leap into the dark for the Israelites was, as Russell has identified, the new concept of an invisible God who is everywhere and everywhen. A God so far beyond human understanding that He cannot even be depicted in an image because this would distract and limit understanding of Him. (I use the traditional male reference to God purely because my background says it would be disrespectful to use the pronoun "It".) It is my belief that the next big step forward in faith, belief, and even worship is about to be made. All around us, as knowledge is increased exponentially, as this knowledge becomes more widely available, people are having to re-assess their basic beliefs.

It is no accident that as the Christian Churches have retreated under the onslaught of misguided and misinformed "Humanist" thinking and the outright antipathy of many politicians and media barons, so the range of "alternative" religions and churches has grown. It is built into our psyche to know that there is something beyond this existence, something much bigger that we are a part of. It is, for most, very ill defined and possibly even totally unexplored. It is in breaking through this barrier - one I equate with the "Hypersonic" barrier for aircraft - that we will move forward on the next phase of human understanding and development.

So what holds us back?

At this point in time, at least one of the matters retarding this development is the fundamentalist approach necesitated by the depth of ignorance of so many adherents of Chrsitianity and of the plethora of "New Age" religions (and I include some of the more way out Christian Pentecostal groups in that). "Keep it simple, stupid" is their watch word, and this prohibits thought. It is a case of "receive" the word intact and don't think about it, don't question it, just take it and run with it. My problem with this is that when something is revealed, it is seldom revealed all in one hit; it takes a lot of thought, a lot of prayer, and even more study to begin to see the light and then to feed the flame until it illuminates the mind. Received? Yes, but then you are supposed to do something with it! To grow, to seek more knowledge and more understanding.

That is the real hurdle holding us back - and this is where I disagree with Russell - it is the people themselves who refuse to explore, to debate, to argue - and then here is where I like what Russell has written - to be prepared to think outside of the box and to seek for themselves a wider and deeper understanding! God works through various agents; He is not confined by Church buildings, denominations, or even Preachers. He finds an outlet, and He will convey His message and His word through anyone He finds able.

Well done, Russell - you are helping to move His plan forward. Let's keep it going!

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 30, 2004 12:07 PM


I'm not sure we disagree as much as you think we do (although there are certainly a few points at which we do). I believe very strongly in the power of religious congregation, although I think its more important for some people than for others. I just haven't gotten there yet. ;)

And I agree with you totally on the New Age crap - 99% of that is nonsense. I can see how a lot of what I've written sounds similar to that, too. But I'd agree very much that the people themeselves have a responsibility to explore, debate, argue, and above all to think.

Thanks for the trackback - it's my first. But thanks above all for an intelligent response. I always love thoughtful discourse.

Posted by: Russell Newquist at July 30, 2004 02:28 PM

I'm with Russ. This was good. I'll chew on it for a while.

Posted by: John at July 30, 2004 02:43 PM

This is probably over simplistic, but I tend to feel that the secular scientific world view is sound on deduced truth, but is too ready to dismiss revealed truth. Meanwhile, the danger of Christian fundamentalism (Which I'm not against per se) is that it's fiercely protective of revealed truth, but is much less comfortable confronting deduced truth when the two appear to conflict. The excitement of genuine freethinking (a term I'm trying to rescue from it's 18th century athieistic, enlightenment roots) is the willingness to explore both.

Posted by: James F Hamilton at August 4, 2004 09:22 AM

I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head, both camps need to recognise the contribution the other is making. Then we can make progress beyond the "Horizon".

Posted by: The Gray Monk at August 4, 2004 09:43 AM